The City of Caraway has been chosen as an Arkansas Volunteer Community of the Year for its broad range of volunteer activities geared at meeting the needs of their community.
Fifty-two volunteers came out in the rain on Sunday afternoon, Dec. 2, to pose for a group photo showing their civic pride and pleasure for receiving this prestigious honor.
The Volunteer Community of the Year Awards are solicited each summer, with a nomination period extending through early fall. Communities submit nominations and a panel of judges select the winners.
The Arkansas Volunteer Community of the Year Awards is sponsored by the Governor's Office, the Arkansas Municipal League and the Arkansas Department of Human Services Division of Volunteerism. The Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department provides signs announcing the Volunteer Community of the Year designation. The signs are placed at prominent locations along highways of the winning cities. The awards are designed to offer thanks to the communities as a whole for their volunteer effort in serving their neighbors.
When Caraway Mayor Barry Riley received a nomination form this spring he had mixed emotions about submitting an entry. One reason was the time and effort needed to submit a viable entry, and the other was where to start.
"I couldn't get my mind off the form, knowing what an outstanding base of volunteers we have and how I wanted them to be recognized for the good work they do," Mayor Riley said. "I just found a place to jump in and do the research needed to complete the application. The more I found out the more determined I was to see it through. I was astonished with what I found, the countless hours of volunteerism donated by our citizens, not just for one year, but for every year."
Eight volunteer organizations are at work in Caraway and were highlighted in the application. Organizations and their directors include: Rodger Adcock, Caraway Volunteer Ambulance director; Cleffie Gipson, Caraway Senior Citizens site director; Dearl Freeman, Caraway Search and Rescue commander; Greg Douglas, head park commissioner; Bo James, fire chief; Hailey Faulkner, City Beautification Committee chairman; Bernard Berry, Caraway Lions Club secretary; Bill Foster, Lions Club vice president; Mark Douglas, Buffalo Island Classic Cruisers president, and Lynn Haag, Historical Society president.
"There were so many youth workers, baseball coaches, EMTs, firemen, cemetery clean-up workers, Lions Club members, and Fourth of July workers that donated their services to the city, and have done so for years," Riley said. "They all go in to help make Caraway a great place to live and raise a family. Each one sees a need and does something about it, many times without even being asked.
"When our city officials attend the winter meeting of the Municipal League, Jan. 9-11, in Little Rock, we will be accepting this award on behalf of all the volunteers of Caraway," Riley said. "This is quite an honor, and the award will be proudly displayed at city hall."
Details brought out in the Volunteer Community of the Year application are varied and outstanding. The all-volunteer Ambulance Service was organized in 1979, and currently has 15 EMTs, five drivers and has logged 1,488 volunteer hours in the past year. The volunteer Fire Department has 25 members, logging in 1,281 volunteer hours. Members of the Buffalo Island Classic Cruisers car club meet in Caraway monthly and hold an annual car show in April each year. They have 20 members listing 272 volunteer hours of work. The Caraway Cemetery clean up is held annually, with 29 volunteers this past year, listing 174 hours of work. The annual Fourth of July Celebration is sponsored by the Caraway Lions Club. They have 13 members, listing 942 hours of volunteer work. Thirty-one ball team coaches worked with 11 ball teams this year, logging in 431 volunteer hours. The Historic Society has five members that have researched and collected historical facts about Caraway, logging in 300 hours of service annually.
"Considering many areas of volunteerism, we came up with a total of 4,888 volunteer hours," Riley said. "According to the Independent Sector a volunteer value is $ 18.77 per hour. That would put the city paying $91,474.76 for the services these volunteers give each and every year. I'm sure there are countless more hours that have been donated by community servants that just see a job and do it, without telling anyone. Our city could never afford to hire all this work done, so volunteers are, and have always been, one of our greatest assets."